Exhibit 2.10


Cleveland -
Detroit 4.5
Minnesota 8.5
Kansas City 15.5
Chicago 18.5

Now, I'm not here to say "You're next Minnesota" or anything like that, but let me just say that I don't care if there is only a month left in the season, You are so next Minnesota.


Exhibit 2.9

Poetry Reading

I haven't, you know, read any yet, but my first two books of poetry are going to be:

Anne Carson Autobiography of Red
Christian Hawkey Citizen Of

Thanks to everyone who suggested a book. By which I mean Heather and Chris.

Just the moment I read these two I'll post some thoughts up here.

Exhibit 2.8

Stock Photography Review

First, go here. (Ed note: see update). Because we're going to be talking about this photo:

Ah, Reuters (which, until I read Tony Kushner's directions in Homebody/Kabul, I always pronounced Root-ers. I love that this was a big enough problem that it was one of two pronunciations he felt the need to point out [ed note: the other was Wodehouse]). Apparently when this story about reproduction slid across the editor's desk the conversation was:

Editor: Great. Do we have any pictures?
Reporter: Of what?
Editor: The production of these so-called "kids."
Reporter: You mean, the sex?
Editor: Yes, get me some 'the sex!'
Reporter: We can't publish that, sir.
Editor: Well, get me something that suggests as much in the most obvious way possible.

Hence a small child and rockets. Look at the father's slack-jawed awe at the sight of these explosive (and in no way suggestive) shafts. And the child who despite being identified as a boy is wearing a very effeminate pair of pink pants. Geez, I wonder if Dad picked those out...

Why not have another fake conversation?

Man with son on shoulders: So this picture isn't going to be used in any kind of sexually suggestive way, right?
Photographer: Nope, we're just going to use it for today's event.
Man: Good. I'd hate for anything to ruin our day at this year's Phallus Expo.

Then the photo wasn't used and here it is as a file photo the first time someone needed to fill space in a story about procreation. This isn't stock photography per se. (In fact, it works in the exact opposite way of stock photography on the viewer, leading to enforced, ill-fitting specificity while stock photography is about creating unnatural anonymity). The idea of using people as furniture is the same, however, so I think it counts.

UPDATE: They changed the photo! So I posted this and went to get some pepper coffee before deciding I should check the link, and they'd changed it to two people's mouths. Rest assured, this was the photo this morning.


Exhibit 2.7

Not to pile on or engage in partisan political hackery or anything, but it's been another banner week for Republicans complete with ineptitude, hypocrisy, and, of course, the rearming of a terrorist organization.

A few thoughts here:

  • Nobody has worked this hard to figure out someone's very obvious sexuality since George Michael left the world confused for the better part of the decade. (That article is a must read).
  • Like George Michael, it might be time for Senator Craig to just admit that when innuendo and rumors cross the line to creepy bathroom stall arrest, it's probably best to just come out.
  • Because, I mean, there are plenty of excuses for a lot of those things taken individually, but when added up, just saying "I have a wide stance." doesn't really undo twenty years worth of gossip coming to a head. So to speak.
  • Obviously killing Shredder wasn't enough.
  • I'm adding "Jiminy God" to my internal list of exclamations right between "Jesus Christ on a cracker" and "Khhhhhhhaaaaaan!"
  • The next time you scare me I'll probably yell "Jiminy God!"
  • Or possibly "Jesus Christ on a cracker!" or maybe "Khhhhhhhaaaaaan!"
  • Shouldn't we have all suspected this Sen. Craig thing after his last gay sex scandal ended with him marrying a woman six months later? I think her maiden name was Beardra Beardson.
  • Who would have thought the new TMNT movie would be legitimately good? Sure, they neutered Leonardo a little bit--just as they did with Cyclops in the X-Men movies, I have a theory about this--but my buddy Ryan and I couldn't have been more surprised.
  • On second thought, maybe Senator Craig is just really bad at selecting men's rooms. Could happen to anyone.

And I've got nothing to add about our former Attorney General who I'm sure is a lovely man who has never personally listened to a person's phone call without a warrant and even if he had, cannot recollect it.


Exhibit 2.6

So I might have had another fantasy football draft last night. You know, I could be reading poetry if anyone would recommend a book, but instead I'm getting pulled deeper into the depravity and moral decay that is fantasy football. This, my second and final team, came off about as well as my last:

If Mandy Patinkin Was a Fantasy Football Team

First Round - Frank Gore, RB, San Francisco. Why Frank Gore dropped to the ninth pick, I'll never know. Ecstatic doesn't begin to describe how I felt about it. I didn't even let myself believe he might drop to me, I just waited out pick after pick until the guy before me took Rudi Johnson (Rudi Johnson!). I meekly said Gore's name, expecting someone to tell me that Gore had been in a car accident or was attacked by Joey Porter's dogs. As far as I know, he's still alive. Now Rudi Johnson on the other hand...

Second Round - Willis McGahee, RB, Baltimore. Who cares if I hated him on my team last year, he's in Baltimore now and if Jamal Lewis and his ankle bracelet can rush for 1,000 yards there than surely Willis can get 1,200. Good value at 16 too.

Third Round - Reggie Wayne, WR, Indianapolis. I don't care what anyone says, he's going to be better than Marvin Harrison one of these years. Here's hoping it's this one.

Fourth Round - Antonio Gates, TE, San Diego. I've never had him on my team before, and though there were higher guys on my board, they were all RBs and QBs that I didn't have any faith in (like, say, Matt Hasselbeck). Another good value pick. It's always nice to lock up the class of a position, and I'm essentially considering him a 4th WR.

Fifth Round - Randy Moss, WR, New England. A boom or bust pick, but another great value in my opinion. I mean, Chris Chambers was taken ahead of him. I love Chris, but I'll take my chances with my man, Randy, thanks.

Sixth Round - Jamal Lewis, RB, Cleveland. Never mind that I just made a joke about him. He had no business being available at this pick considering he starts on a team without any other RBs to steal carries from him. Sure, he pretty much runs with a limp, has a bad attitude, and I hated him on my team last year, but I'll take him as a backup over some of the scrubs that were getting selected before him.

Seventh Round - Jerious Norwood, RB, Atlanta. And here's where the draft goes downhill for awhile. I tried to pick a QB here, but somehow forgot to cross Jay Cutler off my sheet, leading to me selecting him after he was gone (a total faux pas). In my panic, I just grabbed the highest guy left on my board, Mr. Norwood, who I later learned has some kind of mysterious stomach ailment. As my 4th RB, it's no big deal, but I probably should have gone WR or QB here rather than take value. For good and bad, the next best QB on my list was still available the next round...

Eighth Round - Eli Manning, QB, NYG. Did you know Eli has thrown for 24 touchdown passes the past two years? Did you know the Giants have a new offensive coordinator and will pass more without Tiki? Did you know Manning has looked great in the preseason? Um, yeah, it doesn't matter. Totally the weak link on my team, even if he does end up in the top 10 QBs (which he probably will).

Ninth Round - Santonio Holmes, WR, Pittsburgh. I'm predicting big things this year. Another boom or bust guy, but the WRs on my bench behind him are possession guys, so if he falters I'll at least have some consistency to plug in. Maybe.

Tenth Round - Ladell Betts, RB, Washington. Ah, me and LaDell Betts. Good times. I'm glad we're back together. (By the way, someone took Clinton Portis--who starts ahead of LaDell--early in the second round and then refused to take LaDell for some reason, which is where I stepped in to end his freefall. Instead the owner went with guys like Brandon Marshall and Anthony Thomas. Um, LaDell Betts is going to end the season with more points than Portis. He just is. We all know it. Even if not, why wouldn't you take him ahead of Anthony Thomas who is the backup RB on a different team?)

Rounds 11-15 - Ronald Curry, WR; Marty Booker, WR; Jaguars D; Jason Campbell, QB; Josh Brown, K.

So my team is:

QB - Eli Manning
RB - Frank Gore
RB - Willis McGahee
WR - Reggie Wayne
WR - Randy Moss
WR - Santonio Holmes
TE - Antonio Gates
K - Josh Brown
Def - Jacksonville

BN - Jamal Lewis, Jerious Norwood, Ladell Betts, Ronald Curry, Marty Booker, and Jason Campbell.

My QBs are the weak link, and no matter how many things I read about Eli Manning actually being underrated for fantasy, I still don't feel good about it. Even though personalities don't matter here, I still can't help but think his wooden smirk is going to derail my team somehow.

Still, 'If Mandy Patinkin Was a Fantasy Football Team' actually turned out pretty great. I don't think my team is the presumptive favorite, but it's definitely playoff caliber. Hopefully I can trade Ladell Betts for a heart to give Eli Manning.

Exhibit 2.5

One of my front car speakers sounds like it's blown (or whatever speakers do), and so I've faded the music all the way to the back so I don't have to listen to the crackling. It makes every song sound like someone whispering in my ear.


Exhibit 2.4

So in a conversation with a poet and a fiction writer last night, it became embarrassingly clear that the fiction writers--or at least this one--haven't read nearly as much poetry as the poets have fiction. There are a lot of explanations for this, but that doesn't mean it's right. So I've decided I'm going to try to read one book of poetry a week for awhile. I suppose I'll give my ill-informed thoughts about them right here as it will give me something to write about and keep me from hating this blog more than I already do.

(Seriously, this blog is awful. Are they all like this? Does everyone write about their fantasy football teams and candy bars or are those just the topics my sad mind drifts towards when given a blank canvas? Sigh. At least someone offered me nude pictures of Richard Tyson. That never happened before the blog. [Ed note: I predict many hits now from the phrase "nude pictures of Richard Tyson"]).

So this is where you come in. By you I mean Heather, but also any other people who read this blog and want to suggest a book of poetry. Just leave a comment with one or two books I should read, and I'll read them. Contemporary or modern or Romantic or whatever, it doesn't matter. Chapbooks are cool too.

It's like a contest everyone wins.


Exhibit 2.3

I watched Zodiac last night and for some reason was all prepared to hate it but came away loving it. I wish I even had a good reason to love it, but rather than having one overriding reason I mostly just liked a million little things about it. It's a phenomenally well-made movie. Everything just looks so perfect and flows so smoothly that it's absurd runtime (2 hours and 38 minutes) goes by like a flash.

In a lot of ways it's two movies in one. In the first, it's a police drama of the Law and Order variety, but, like, the best Law and Order ever. In the second, somewhat brighter half it's a story of intrepid journalism ala All the President's Men. If that makes it sound fractured, it's really not as the expansive cast of characters all hover around the story but find their roles shifting as the investigation goes from urgent public crisis to yesterday's news to seething lament. Such a large stretch of time passes--each jump carefully labelled to the point where 20 years seems like 50--that in a movie where the characters are so driven by one event, it would be easy to think they are less people than crime solving automatons (apparently malfunctioning). But Fincher uses the pervasiveness of the threat (and then its lingering hole in those closest to it) and a surprising amount of humor to humanizes each character. I don't even know what else to say. It was really gripping, and when I immediately ran to my computer to read everything I could about the Zodiac Killer, I found that there really wasn't anything else to know which is maybe the highest compliment a person can give a movie so carefully constructed.

(Ed note: I can't remember why I thought the movie was going to be awful. Partially seeing the runtime got me down, but I mostly remember thinking how it would probably be like The Black Dahlia which is very similar to this movie except for the fact that I thought Zodiac was one of the best movies I've seen in years while I thought The Black Dahlia one of the worst).

The movie did have some interesting casting choices. Anthony Edwards (Goose!) was positively Jeff Daniels-esque as Mark Ruffalo's partner. I like Anthony Edwards. He has a nice reassuring quality to him, even in odd roles like Northfork. Where has he been? This is only his fourth movie since E.R. ended. Maybe he's been dating Helen Hunt and that's why neither of them act any more.

There were a fair amount of famous people in minor roles: Philip Baker Hall, Chloe Sevigny, Dermot Mulroney (either wearing some belly padding or, um, not), Adam Goldberg, and the always great Brian Cox.

Then there were just enough random people to keep it fun:

John Ennis - The guy from Mr. Show. This one was really strange. If I had to guess a Mr. Show cast member to have been in this beforehand I totally would have gone with Brian Posehn.

Elias Koteas - Who played Casey Jones in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle movies.

Clea Duvall - Who was in The Faculty among other late '90s flicks which, for some reason, means I know her name.

Donal Logue - Where's he been? Possibly hiding out with Helen Hunt, Anthony Edwards, and the 'D' from his first name.

John Carroll Lynch - Who I know from the Drew Carey Show despite being pretty sure I've never actually seen an episode of that show. It's not giving anything away to say that he plays the main suspect and will hopefully never work in comedy again as his appearance will cause me to breakdown weeping.

Zach Grenier - Whose name I didn't know, but who has been in every television show ever made for at least one episode. This is actually in the SAG contract. If you're reading this--and for the third time, you're not--and making a television show, he's probably standing behind you.

I mean, the guy who played Casey Jones (not to mention the asshole brother in Look Who's Talking Too) and Donal Logue? Um, yeah, I'll see that.

Anyway, don't let my name dropping take away from the main point here: It's a very, very good movie. I'd even say a great one. I'm not kidding about it being one of the best of the past few years--and probably this decade. I'm trying hard to think of anything I was so thoroughly impressed with recently. I'm sure there's something...

Exhibit 2.2

Our office gets ground coffee from Starbucks, and the one I am drinking this morning is, in all seriousness, described as "peppery."

Unfortunately, it's described accurately.


Exhibit 2.1

I swear to god my next post is going to be on Günter Grass, but I just have to do this:

My Fantasy Football Team (by which I mean the first of two and possibly three fantasy football teams).

I'm trying to decide how embarrassing it is to have a fantasy football team and for the moment I've decide upon 'Not Very.' I'm willing to reconsider. So I'll write about it as no one reads this blog except for people who already know I play fantasy football. These are people who I often find myself yelling at while drinking about the difference between a 3-4 and a 4-3. People who have heard me say things like, "I just don't know if it's worth it to keep Devery Henderson on my team." People who often stare at me with blank eyes.

The thing with fantasy football--and it is the only "fantasy" sport I play for this reasons--is that I get obsessed with it. Having an office job where I have hours a day to be on the Internet has only made it worse. I'm to the point where I look up where everyone on my team has gone to college. I try to find scouting reports from their draft year. I make notes on trades I intend to propose in week 7 a month before the season even starts. It's no good.

Here's my team from this past Sunday. They're called The Lincoln Hawks which may just be my favorite fantasy football team name of all time. If you don't know why, click here. It works on so many levels my head might explode. Here's the team:

QB - Philip Rivers. Probably took him a round too early, but I was panicking due to what had been a recent run on QBs and the fact that I didn't have another pick coming up for a while (I drafted second and the draft snakes so my picks went 2, 23, 26, 47, 50...) Faced with the prospect of having to take someone like J.P. Losman, I grabbed Rivers who I think is at worst solid and at best poised for a breakout year.

RB - Steven Jackson. My first pick who will continue to drive the dynamic St. Louis offense.

RB - Marshawn Lynch. He's a rookie playing behind a line that Buffalo spent a lot of money upgrading in the offseason. I got him after a lot of other guys with no upside were taken and felt lucky.

WR - Steve Smith. Took him with my first second round pick and didn't feel good about it. Not that he won't be great--he will be--but fantasy football is all about the RBs and all of the good ones were gone. Then I took:

WR - Chad Johnson. Again, he'll be great. I have who I consider to be the top two WRs in football, but it came at the expense of getting a running back or quarterback. That said, as my other options at the time were to reach for a Tom Brady or take a guy I hate like Edgerrin James, I feel okay about it.

TE - Randy McMichael. I hate this pick. Don't ask.

RB/WR - Jamal Lewis. This is a flex spot where I can play either a wide receiver or a running back. If your league has a flex spot like this and you are playing a WR in it, your team probably isn't very good. I don't like Jamal Lewis much this year, but it's hard to see how he could be worse than last year when he was serviceable. He's all depth and no upside. Plus, it's always nice to have a guy who's spent time in a federal prison for arranging a coke deal.

WR/TE - Isaac Bruce. So too, if your league has a flex spot like this and you have a TE here, you're team is probably awful. It just is. Speaking of awful, Isaac Bruce! He's actually okay, but I'd much rather have him as a backup and will probably make a trade to make that happen.

Bench - DeShaun Foster, Michael Turner, Brandon Jackson, and Chris Henry (the RB, not the alcoholic, suspended Bengal). All RBs, all upside. Henry I plan on cutting soon to pick up my defense, and Turner I hope to trade to the team with LaDanian Tomlinson (Turner is his backup). I really like Foster and Jackson as guys who other teams were over looking for some reason.

A common thing to do in this league is to not draft a kicker or defense and then pick one up after dropping some guys before Week 1 (which is what I did), hence guys like Henry and Turner who don't really have a place on the team but who I have on the off chance someone tears a knee ligament or pulls a Brian Griese and hurts himself while drunk.

I'm crossing my fingers.

Overall, I'd give the team a B-. I think it was maybe my worst draft, but The Lincoln Hawks will be okay. The Lincoln Hawks will always be okay. Plus:

UPDATE: Because you care so much, I'll let you know I just completed a trade with my brother. I sent Chad Johnson, Jamal Lewis, and Brandon Jackson for Willie Parker, Santana Moss, and Tatum Bell. Making my roster:

QB - Philip Rivers

RB - Steven Jackson

RB - Willie Parker

WR - Steve Smith

WR - Santana Moss

TE - Randy McMichael

RB/WR - Marshawn Lynch

WR/TE - Isaac Bruce

BN - DeShaun Foster, Tatum Bell, and Michael Turner.

That's a very solid team all of a sudden. I like it. I hated giving up a guy who's been in a federal prison like Jamal Lewis, but there's always Mike Vick...


Exhibit 1.27

So, someone posted The Cupboard to metafilter (which was nice. Thanks, anonymous stranger) and suddenly the page is being swarmed with hits and a few emails have started to come in about the "misspelling" of 'alterior' in our cover text. What is strange about this is that no one ever said anything before. Did people get that it was a pun? Are our readers bad spellers or just really in tune with our aesthetic? I should ask all four of them.

In any case, the pun was a bad idea for innumerable reasons and will probably be the last one to appear on the cover. At least after next month's one about leafing home for the fall and our special Halloween volume on wherewolves. You know, like wolves that are lost.

Exhibit 1.26

Candy Bar Review: Pearson's Salted Nut Roll

I don't really want to review candy bars. Or anything for that matter, but at this point I feel like I need the warm hug of criticism to prevent myself from realizing I am essentially writing something that might better be called Candy Bar Musings. Pretending that I am doing the arduous work of the critic prevents me from realizing that I am slowing turning into a character from Cathy.

But I am happy to be writing about this particular candy bar, a classic that has been newly added to the Johnston Girls Memorial Candy Bar Basket (who, in case you are curious, are either still seeking expensive medical treatment or raising funds for a Girl Scout camp, it's unclear). The Pearson's Salted Nut Roll is a staple of my childhood, but it's all somewhat ephemeral as I can't really connect it to any one person or place. I vaguely remember my grandfather liking them, though I can't be sure if I'm not just confusing what is the candy bar's inherent grandfatherly nature with my grandfather's inherent grandfatherly nature.

It's a simply executed concept with only three elements: salted peanuts, caramel, and a white substance that could be anything but is most likely some kind of glue stick. Despite it's depression-era simplicity, the Salted Nut Roll is a pretty great snack.

Oh, and according to its wrapper, it's a good source of protein (and presumably salt and bone meal).


Exhibit 1.25

Watched a Humphrey Bogart movie over the weekend. It's probably idiotic to say it as he's arguably the most famous American actor of all time, but he's good. Real good. In a Lonely Place is a pretty typical noir about murder, dames, and all the rest, but it would be half the movie without Bogart slouching around looking to punch somebody. He spends a fair portion of the movie with his elbows against his chest with one arm bent up to take his cigarette from his mouth while the other holds a drink somewhere by his navel. Coiled up like that, he slithers through a crowd, but when pushed he strikes out and suddenly he's all arms and wild eyes.

It's a great performance, and I'm not sure the movie is quite as good though it's certainly worthy of being called a classic. Bogart is Dixon Steele, a screenwriter with a reputation for violence who finds himself the target of a murder investigation after a girl he (somewhat) innocently took home winds up dead. His story is corroborated at the police station by a beautiful neighbor (Gloria Grahame), and the two fall madly in love until his violent outbursts and the police pressure cause her suspicions that he actually committed the murder to come between them. The lesson here is that it's probably not a good idea to date someone you met while serving as an alibi for them in a murder investigation.

All of the posters and the film's trailer make prominent mention of the film's "Surprise Finish," and maybe it's just my post Usual Suspects/Fight Club/The Sixth Sense blues that has me thankful the ending is actually predictable, devastating, and entirely perfect for the movie. Had we gotten some kind of post-modern twist ending those taglines led me to suspect, I would have been pretty disappointed. Top ending possibilities if this movie had come out in 1998:
  1. It is all a screenplay Humphrey is writing and/or he finds his actions predicted by the book he's adapting.

  2. Gloria Grahame is somehow have been the neighbor and the murdered girl, but Humphrey Bogart is the only one who knows it and no one else believes him.

  3. Humphrey Bogart is actually the one murdered but he doesn't know it. Or he's Keyzer Soze. Or actually there is no neighbor and it's only his imagination. Or whatever the hell.

  4. While punching someone, Humphrey Bogart realizes he isn't a screenwriter, but is actually a man named Humphrey Bogart. He goes to the mall and buys a t-shirt with his picture on it and the collection of his greatest movies. The film ends with him watching the ending of the film.

Really makes you think. Doesn't it? No? You're right, it doesn't because those endings are dumb and dishonest upon reflection.

In any case, the real ending of the movie is great though IMDb leads me to believe there was actually a darker ending in mind which would have been great too. They are actually the same ending for all it matters which is why it's such a good ending. (Bizarrely, the trailer actually features an entirely different ending which you would only know after seeing the movie. That ending is awful but apparently makes for good trailer filler).

All and all a great movie experience. I'd be curious to read the reportedly very different book the movie was based on which is reissued by a feminist series for a university press (the author was a woman and apparently it is a somewhat unusual book for the time). The book is apparently a proto-Mr. Ripley wherein Humphrey Bogart's character is a first person narrator who kills someone and takes their identity. This, um, isn't what the movie is about.

Exhibit 1.24

The Royals moved into sole possession of fourth place in the AL Central over the weekend, and are making a run at their third consecutive winning month. For the record, they haven't done that since 1994. Here's hoping.

The man pictured above took fourth place in some kind of pinball competition in the U.K. I like to think of him and the Royals as kindred spirits, always competing against those with more money but smaller souls. With greater talent but lesser will. With larger, more reactive paddles, like really expensive ones with lights and all but with slower fingers. Or something.


Exhibit 1.23

Heather and I watched about half of this version of the Beowulf story which seems to follow the poem pretty closely except in this one there is a witch for some reason. Oh, and Stellan Skarsgård hits himself in the head with a rock a lot. Plus, Grendel is just some hairy guy who has a kid. Oh, and he has a father who was murdered by the Danes so he has a reason to be pissed. Also, for some reason people spend half the movie talking in grunts.

Literally the first ten minutes of the movie is:

Grendel's Dad (Let's call him Dave): Urgh.
Grendel: Warlllll!
Dave: Unh, unh, arrrrr!
Stellan Skarsgård: Garrrl! (Kills Dave. Hits self with a rock a few times).
Sarah Polley: I'm a witch. Raaaaarg!

Otherwise it's exactly like the poem.

Exhibit 1.22

I found this list on the poet Adam Clay's blog a year or two ago so I'm not sure if it's current, but it's a big help. Normally I'd just link to the post on his blog, but I can't find it anymore. In any case, if you know any more, please comment:

Creative Writing Ph.D. Programs

Florida State University
Georgia State University
Ohio University
Oklahoma State University
University of Calgary
University of Cincinnati
University of Denver
University of Georgia
University of Hawaii
University of Houston
University of Illinois at Chicago
University of Iowa (PhD in English w/ creative dissertation)
University of Louisiana at Lafayette
University of Manchester
University of Missouri
University of Nebraska
University of Nevada (at Las Vegas)
University of Newcastle
University of Southern California
University of Southern Mississippi
University of Tennessee
University of Utah
University of Wales
University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee
Western Michigan University


Exhibit 1.21

Presidential Candidate Review: Mike Huckabee

Maybe it's just me, but I like the fat Mike Huckabee better. It's a little disconcerting that a politician can lose 125 lbs. and go from a Pat Buchanan/Newt Gingrich/Dennis Hastert-esque Republican--gluttonous off the flesh of the common man and guzzling chalice after chalice of high cholesterol whale blood or whatever--to an actual contender for something other than first in line at the Heritage Foundation's annual potluck (Ed note: Ann Coulter is the one who brings the store bought cupcakes). This new Mike Huckabee is positively normal looking. Hell, I'll even call him dynamic. He's basically doing what Al Gore is doing only the opposite (which is smart for the both of them. Gore looks much better with a wise, professorial bulge whereas Huckabee seemed miscast as a fat man. Both move much more comfortably in their new body types [and presumably pants]. Look no further than Al Gore dancing at the first inauguration).

Here's the thing about Huckabee: He's long scared the hell out of me.

He's basically a Protestant, affable Sam Brownback and that's a formidable thing in the Republican primaries and a potentially dangerous thing against certain Democratic candidates. He's sort of the sleeping dragon of the election only after his surprising finish in the utterly meaningless Iowa Straw Poll, he's started to get a lot of press as the candidate with momentum. He's scared me before that for one simple reason: He's the most obvious choice as the candidate to come out of the Republican primaries if you take away name recognition and money. Consider these anonymous candidates:

Man 1: Thrice divorced, big city east coast mayor who supports abortion rights, is somewhat gay-friendly, and who is positively hated by most of the people involved in his biggest "moment". See Veterans, Swift Vote. Oh, and Catholic if that matters to Republican voters. And it might.

Man 2: Old, somewhat crazy once-maverick Senator who supports campaign finance reform, opposed tax cuts for awhile, and who has simultaneously managed to cozy up to president he hates (thus alienating his base) while continuing to support things people who like the president hate like immigration reform (which pretty much takes care of everyone else).

Man 3: Former 2+ term Southern governor who is very popular in his home state, is socially conservative but doesn't seem dogmatic about it, has an inspiring story of weight loss and seems to be part presidential candidate and part self-help guru. Is a great campaigner and people seem to come away from meeting him somewhat in love. Is a Baptist minister though apparently more of the Rick Warren/life is good type than a fire and brimstone guy. Some have called him "dynamic."

Man 4: Mormon.

Now, which one of those guys seems most likely to win the nomination? Of course, it's stupid to take away external factors, but my point is that Mike Huckabee is an exceedingly dangerous candidate once he builds some momentum. Hell, we basically already elected a guy with his resume (though not his beliefs) once: Bill Clinton. The similarities between the two are spooky right down to their both having been born in Hope, Arkansas.

(Brief aside: What would the odds be if Hope, Arkansas ended up producing two presidents. Don't get me wrong, I hope it doesn't happen, but seriously? The city has 10,000 people in it, is in the middle of rural Arkansas, and has a median income of 25k with 27% of people below the poverty line. Take that, Exeter.)

Of course, with the primaries all moved forward Huckabee isn't probably going to win the nomination. Whereas in the past he could have won/finished 2nd in Iowa and tried to parlay that into a victory in South Carolina, in this years election he'll be hard pressed to make a dent now that the primaries are more Western/Eastern and less Midwest/Southern which is where he plays well. If enough Republicans can hold their noses (and their Bibles) to vote for Giuliani or Romney on Super Duper Tuesday, Huckabee's done. And good, I say.

In a general election, Huckabee could be a problem. We've elected presidents for dumber reasons than that they seem like a good people. In fact, you can pretty much say our last two presidents were elected for this very reason. Plus, Huckabee's reasonably well-insulated against this administration's policies (even though he supports them) whereas the more prominent candidates will get some guilt by association for debacles like Iraq. In other words, Huckabee could walk into a matchup against, say, Clinton as never having to have made one vote on Iraq (or anything else of note) yet still has the experience of a long governorship to fall back on. He's scares me because Americans love candidates like that. We elect governors president, not senators, which all the prominent Democrats just so happen to be this time around.

His best V.P. pick would be a strong foreign policy, pro-business guy from outside the South or Midwest. McCain is probably the obvious choice but there's no way in hell. None of the other Republican candidates fit the bill (maybe Romney, but again, no way), but I'm sure there's someone out there to play Cheney to Huckabee's Bush. (God help us if it is somehow Colin Powell). With an older, well-liked V.P. candidate by his side, Huckabee would be a tough matchup for someone like Clinton, a brutal matchup for Edwards, and a fairly easy matchup for Obama. Against Clinton, Huckabee will have freshness on his side and a strong V.P. pick might negate some of the foreign policy inexperience. Hillary's voting record and the general love/hate relationship with the public might just be enough for a charming, humorous man's man like Huckabee to win over moderates and anti-Hillary women.

Edwards v. Huckabee would basically be a beauty pageant which each one trying to out Southern Charm us to death.

Obama v. Huckabee would be similar though ultimately Obama's story is better than Huckabee's plus he seems even fresher and more dynamic.

Huckabee is an ideal V.P. pick for Giuliani, and a slightly less ideal one for Romney (there would be a lot of religious-focus there that they wouldn't probably want). Basically, he's the Republican John Edwards only with a far superior resume for his particular base. Unfortunately, Republicans seem to be realizing this as we speak. He has other negatives I haven't really gone into (the religious stuff would hurt him in the general election, a lot of fat pictures out there, his last name doesn't sound presidential, etc.), but he's the only Republican who doesn't have that No fucking way are the Republicans nominating a _______ (Mormon, NYer, Crazy Person). That scares me.


Exhibit 1.20

So I'm getting ready to play in a company-sanctioned basketball game, and all I can do is imagine myself posting people up and beating my boss off the dribble. There are two problems with this 1) I've never been good at basketball and 2) I've done nothing in the years since I last played basketball to make myself better. In fact, all I've done since is pretty much binge drink, smoke briefly, stop smoking but start drinking more Coke and coffee, cut back on the binge drinking while increasing frequency and overall alcohol consumption, and sit in a chair without engaging in any physical activity. In other words, the math I should be working with here is 7th grade Adams Middle School select-league player Adam Peterson + Age, Alcohol, and Athletic Apathy= DNP - Vomiting. That's a box score joke. If you're reading this--and again, you're not--you probably didn't get that.

But why is it in my mind it all seems so easy, as if the last time I played basketball I was Danny Manning and I just need to shake off some rust. If you could see how pristine my crossover is in my mind, you'd swear I'd actually done it once without kicking the ball into the third row. And even though I know I'm no good, there is still this cognitive dissonance there to make it seem as if I somehow could be good. I mean, I haven't played in a decade, theoretically I'm just as likely to get better as I am to get worse. It's not as if practicing ever helped me.

The mental gap that suggests that if I haven't done something in a long enough time that means I have permission to start dreaming about maybe joining an adult league and winning the MVP, is a dangerous one. People make decisions by not analyzing past performance all the time and pretending that if someone was once good they will be again. It pretty much explains the last 30 years of Marlon Brando's career.

UPDATE: I have just returned from said basketball game and am nominally still alive. Ironically, I actually did play like Danny Manning. Only with a limp. And who ate too much for lunch. And who occassionaly called for a sub despite the absence of such subs. You know, the Danny Manning who played for Dallas. If nothing else, I'm pretty sure jumpshot won't be on our corporate reviews this year. Final line: 30 minutes, 2-3 from the field, 2 assists, 2 TO, 1 steal, 8 times I didn't run back down the court, and 11 fouls (give or take). I was probably not definitely the worst player.


Exhibit 1.19

It occurred to me this weekend that there is an entire genre of food that I spent most of my childhood eating that I rarely get to experience anymore: the potluck dish. Some of our--by which I mean mankind's--best entrees and desserts come in convenient and easily transportable squares which we march off under tinfoil to place on one of those long folding tables in a gymnasium somewhere. This never happens to me anymore yet it seems like I spent half my childhood deciding between two different tupperwares full of nearly identical pasta salad. Well, in honor of this, my list of the best potluck foods:

  • Chocolate covered Rice Krispy Treats - The ultimate in half-assed mothering that beats out much more complicated desserts. Bonus points for when the chocolate layer is made with just melted chocolate chips. Negative points for when the Rice Krispy Treats have absorbed the stench of Kool Ultras.
  • Enchilada Casserole - This dish always satisfies the obscure potluck rule that states all ethnic food must be made by someone of an opposite ethnicity. Senora Crocker is almost surely the originator of this recipe.
  • Li'l Smokies - Traditionally made by someone's single father who owns a crockpot, two bottles of barbeque sauce, and nothing else. Plus, they always lead to one person bringing a quivering plastic spoon full of barbeque sauce up to their mouth after all the Li'l Smokies are gone.
  • Au Gratin Potatoes - At least nine people will bring this . That's a good thing.
  • Pumpkin Pie - As with the potatoes, multiple people will bring pumpkin pie and no one will be disappointed. It's especially great because it generally leads to two mothers staring each other down and carefully watching who goes for which pie first. I'm pretty sure several families at McDonald Elementary school were broken up because a father took a piece from the wrong pie. It was probably for the best.
  • McDonald's Orange Drink - This may have just been a local thing, but it seems like McDonald's would provide a giant yellow cooler full of orange drink for every potluck between 1989 and 1997. I think it was just their normal Hi-C watered down, but it was delicious and deserves a mention.
  • Cupcakes purchased at grocery store - See Smokies, Li'l. I don't know why cupcakes that come from grocery stores always have a giant cone of frosting that doesn't cover the entire top of the cupcake, but they just do. Even better when these have been placed in a dish to conceal their shameful origins.

That's hardly a comprehensive list. Feel free to suggest more. Oh, and no, I don't know why I'm writing about this either.


Exhibit 1.18

Stock Photography Review

From msn.com

The headline that accompanies this piece says "ARE YOU A GOOD CO-WORKER?" As I found this while at work, it's unclear if I'm even a good worker so I didn't have the heart to actually take the quiz or whatever that would let me know.

But what's fascinating about this piece--and stock photography in general--is the chameleon-like nature of these images. Whatever photographer snapped this shot had no idea what the headline was going to be, but s/he knew that A) Most stock photography uses women, B) Most stock photography is used by companies targeting middle-class salaried workers, and C) Due to the depth of the composition, this photo would likely be used online or in mail (not on, say, a billboard). That's it. However this photo gets used from then on is entirely up to the photographer's arrangement with the image provider and the company that purchases it.
Some other possible headlines that could go with this photo:

  • Searching for a better snack? Try a Take Five.
  • Constantly looking for a bathroom? Take Holdaprone.
  • The University of Onlineville is the answer to your career worries.
  • Is everything really better on the other side of the cubicle?
  • Find out if you made the right career move.
  • Our employees are worried about what's best for you.

And on and on.


Exhibit 1.17

I'm pretty sure that picture is from Carlito's Way. It could also be Sylvester Stallone in Cobra, I can't tell. In any case, I happened to turn on the television this weekend and stumble upon the first few minutes of Carlito's Way, which I've seen a half dozen times but now appreciate on a much deeper level. I only watched five minutes or so, and I am ready to say the movie is one of the all-time great five minute movies. No matter what five minutes you watch, you're going to be entertained by any or all of:

  • Pacino actually eating the sets. He walks with so much swagger in this movie that at times he's practically horizontal. At the beginning of the movie, Pacino is an actor, but by the end of the movie he is the character Al Pacino has played in every movie since. In some ways, Carlito's Way actually ruined his career as he apparently thinks he's still playing Carlito. That Al Pacino can play Shylock in The Merchant of Venice and a Puerto Rican gangster without changing his demeanor or accent is what makes him so fascinating. I love Al Pacino.
  • Sean Penn's character who I think is actually named Jewish Lawyer. Look at him:
  • It's fun to imagine Pacino playing the lawyer and Carlito and holding conversations with himself. Does anyone else do this during Al Pacino movies? Anyone? No? Try it some time with Dog Day Afternoon. If you try it while watching Scent of a Woman, it's like watching the tape from The Ring.
  • Penolope Ann Miller as Carlito's girlfriend/stripper trying desperately not to get eaten by Al Pacino. I'm pretty sure I've never called anyone this before, and I don't really know what it means, but Penolope Ann Miller is a drip. Her name even sounds bland. Yet somehow in the early 1990s she was in movies where Al Pacino, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Richard Tyson were madly in love with her. If at any point in her career someone had told her to go by just Penolope Ann, she'd probably be Julia Roberts right now. Keep this in mind when David Collin is winning his 2nd Pulitzer.

  • Viggo Mortensen as lowlife, wheelchair-bound snitch who at one point cries hysterically and complains about how he can't "hump" anymore. Um, I'm pretty sure this performance wasn't on the reel he sent in for TLOTR.

  • Carlito saying something crazy. Just read IMDb's memorable quotes page.

Seriously, it's that good. Heather and I caught it just as Pacino was doing some of his strutting and watched through when he yells, "HERE COME THE PAIN!" Needless to say, I've pretty much been saying that all day, going so far as to run it through babelfish to see if it sounds cooler in Spanish. It does.


Exhibit 1.16

Things you should be looking for in tonight's pre-season opening Dolphins game:

  • John Beck's performance. Not as a quarterback--that will be fine--but as the lead in the Adam Peterson story. Look at this guy. Seeing him in a Dolphins uniform is like watching one of my dreams in the third person.
  • Ted Ginn vs. Ted Ginn's hamstring. The battle no one wins.
  • Cam Cameron's head coaching debut. He seems like a good guy, but there is no denying that he went 18-37 in his only other head coaching job at IU. Which, by the way, is his alma mater. This worries me. If/when Drake University ever puts me in charge of their non-scholarship division 1-AA football program, I'm going to do a little better than 18-37. I don't care how many times I have to run Scotty Phaydavong.
  • Jason Allen continuing to do his statue impression when on the field. He couldn't be more of a bust if he didn't have a torso. No one can convince me that Saban didn't actually want to draft some other guy named Jason Allen Smith but forgot to write the last name on the card. Then when Tagliabue read the name, Saban just played it cool and told everyone in the room, "Well, I'm sure he's good too."
  • My favorite sleeper player: David Sutton. He's a 6-6 ex-volleyball player who only caught 6 passes during his time at UTEP. No jokes here. He's good.


Exhibit 1.15

"I question your attractiveness less than anyone."


Exhibit 1.14

The kid that Odalis Perez ate and whose skin he wears Vincent D'Onofrio style.

Odalis Perez was unexpectedly bad for the Royals last night. Which is to say that he is always bad, but last night he was worse than usual, somewhat surprising considering he has developed into quite the consistent pitcher. Which is to say consistently bad.

The normal Odalis Perez start goes something like this: 5.2 IP with 4 runs earned (and sometimes, just for fun, an unearned run) with 8 hits, 3k, 2 BB, 3 visits to the mound by the pitching coach, and 1 me turning off the game until a Gil Meche or Brian Bannister start. That's not statistics based, that's just the perceived line of watching him pitch--except for me turning off the game, that I can document.

The Royals can't complain as they aren't even paying his salary (or at least not most of it). This may be one of the all-time great things about sports that, if translated to the real world, would make absolutely no sense (though we may need to do it anyway). If my company traded me to say, McDonald's, I'd probably perform pretty poorly too until I learned from my McManager that my old company was still paying my salary but just didn't want me around anymore. At that point I might start making a few more Quarter Pounders per hour just to prove them wrong, but I guess Odalis and I are just different people.

(This concept gets even more ridiculous in the NBA. Can you imagine being, say, Theo Ratliffe and repeatedly getting traded from team to team, each one of which only wants you because A. they need your awful, awful contract to make a deal for a superstar work and B. that awful contract is about to expire and provide cap relief? How could this situation possibly be comfortable for anyone. "Should I start warming up, Coach?" "No, Theo, why don't you just go sit at the end of the bench until your deal expires in 2009." The concept of the buy-out is even worse. The Portland Trail Blazers just gave Stevie Francis something like $30 million to not play basketball for them. Actually, this one we may need to institute in the real world).

Odalis's contract is somewhat understandable considering his remarkable 2002 season:

222.1 IP, 3.00 ERA, 4 CG, 2 SO, 155 K, 38 BB, .226 BA against, .99 WHIP, 15 wins and 10 losses.

That's a damn fine season. Not Cy Young worthy, but I could see it getting a vote or two (Ed note: it didn't because Randy Johnson was incredible that year). He probably should have won 20 games. He was an All-Star. Odalis was 24-25 years old throughout that season (scary considering that's my current age and an Odalis Perez-like collapse could be just around the corner) and he had never been that good again when the Dodgers locked him up in 2005 based mostly on the promise of that earlier season. Within a few months of the deal the Dodgers already regretted it, and within 18 months they'd shipped him, two legit prospects, and something like $20 million off to the Royals for a 35-year-old reliever who, ironically, had been on the Dodgers the year before but who they didn't want to resign. Ouch.

This is the equivalent of the company I work for trading me, my salary, the basket of Take Fives, my purple editing pens, and one of our data analysts to McDonald's for a number four. I don't even think they'd be able to get it super-sized unless they threw in one of the coffee pots.


Exhibit 1.13

The most shocking thing about this whole bridge collapse--okay, maybe third most shocking thing after the relatively low mortality rate and the fact that the Royals and Twins played an hour after the bridge collapsed within a few miles of the stadium--is that more bridges don't collapse all of the time. We're talking about metal and cement structures spanning hundreds of feet in the air which are nearly constantly supporting the weight of hundreds of cars and passengers. These cars run on fire! The people in these flaming death chariots atop decades old structures built by the Irish or whoever are driving at 70 m.p.h. are within a few feet of other drivers, some of whom are probably drunk or on their way home from a drug deal.

I can't believe this doesn't happen all of the time. Of course, I can't believe gas stations don't just blow up sometimes . I can't believe more buildings don't fall over in the wind. And don't even get me started on planes.

I'm not even afraid to drive or fly, yet the world as I imagine it, the world we deserve, is a wasteland somewhere between The Road Warrior and Escape from New York. I mean, the President flies everywhere. Of course sometimes his plane is going to crash and some of those times his escape pod is bound to land in a prison. I mean, do you know how many prisons there are? It's simple arithmetic. This is why we have Snake Plissken in the first place.

This kind of rhetoric is just sad, however. And I like Hillary and agree with everything she has to say about funding for our infrastructure, but nothing is wrong if in the 21st century we are scared to drive over bridges. Bridges are in the air. We should, naturally be scared of them. We should be more scared of bridges than, say, cougars.

Don't get me wrong, it is a tragedy. However, we were also pretty lucky. So far only five deaths have been confirmed. The media hasn't been this upset over five deaths since that summer everyone was afraid of sharks. We got over that, and they even have super sharks now. They killed L.L. Cool J for god's sake.

Anyone on a bridge about to collapse has the right to think whatever they want, but I imagine at least some of the people in Minnesota weren't entirely surprised. They had always known the world could turn on them like this. The sort of people who looked at the Leaning Tower of Pisa and thought it was only the natural state of a building that old. On the bridge, people like that, people like me, probably had a stunning moment of clarity where they thought Of course this was going to happen. This is the Mississippi River we're trying to cross in explosion machines. What a fucking stupid idea.

I like to think the president in Escape from New York thought something like this too as his pod spun towards an island of trashcan fires and bloodied crowbars. And I'm sure the off-screen media was clamoring on about how in 1997 surely we should be able to build a presidential escape pod that can avoid prisons. We can't. We can't.

Exhibit 1.12

Candy Bar Review: Take Five

I couldn't tell you what's in a Take Five except for a pretzel, and god knows I'm not going to look it up. If I had to guess it's: Pretzel, Chocolate made from melted chocolate Jesuses, Unicorn Laughter, Nougat, and Nugent. I also might be willing to say that it had caramel but don't want to go out on a limb. I'm pretty sure sweater vests aren't involved.

The evil-genius daughters of a co-worker have placed a basket of candy bars in the break room next to the coffee. They might as well have filled the basket with puppies for all the action this thing gets. I've never enjoyed helping someone's children raise money so much. It's for an operation or a band trip or something.


Exhibit 1.11

Saw The Bourne Ultimatum, and it was fun and exciting and a little ridiculous and super awesome all at once. A few thoughts:

Can we rethink this whole Julia Stiles thing? She's like somebody's wooden step-sister. I was openly rooting for Desh. There's a scene very much like one in the first movie where she dyes and cuts her hair while Matt Damon watches her. Instead of sexual tension, however, there is the undeniable sense that Jason Bourne is thinking Yeah, right. My last girlfriend was Franke Potente. I can do better.

Speaking of Desh, at one point in the film he and Matt Damon engage in a race to see who can be more awkward on a scooter. Who won? The audience, that's who.

My favorite thing about the Bourne movies--outside of the aforementioned awesomeness--is what they say about our government's intelligence community in its fictional world. Apparently they are capable of training one agent to be an unthinkable badass but decided the rest of their team of assassins only had to be kind-of tough. Even Desh fights like he dropped out three weeks into a month long fighting course, never getting to the lesson about battering your opponent with the textbook. I wonder if after training Bourne Albert Finney, Chris Cooper, Scott Glen, David Strathairn, and Tom Skerritt (who isn't in the movies but would surely be at that meeting) all got together and decided that Since we have Bourne, we really only need a bunch of chumps with messenger bags and designer jackets. We'll be good as long as the chumps never have to face Bourne.

Bourne is like the Dan Marino of super soldier assassins. If statistics were kept on number of arms bent at awkward angles to momentarily debilitate an Eastern European police officer, he'd be in the Hall of Fame.

Hearing David Strathairn say, "Give me a standard kill order." is like hearing Jesus sing. I wonder what other kill order options there were. King size?

At one point in the movie Matt Damon does one of my favorite ridiculous movie things. While driving a pilfered police car and needing to go faster, he shifts the car into another gear and steps on the gas so that the car speeds away. Except here, the car is an automatic Monte Carlo circa 2000. The lever is on the steering wheel for god's sake. Really, Bourne, did going from D3 to D4 really do much for you or was it more a gas mileage thing? (Ed note: I'm not ruling out Matt Damon can conjure a manual transmission just by thinking about it).

There are plenty more great moments like these, but I feel I already rehashed them in hurried exclamations after the show. That probably says all you need.

UPDATE: I have since gotten several hits by people who found this blog by googling Julia Stiles's name, and now I feel awful. I didn't want to start a blog just to be one of those guys. Seriously, she's great. I loved her in Finding Forrester.

Exhibit 1.10

Song Kang-ho

I spent half of The Host trying to figure out if the sweet, stunted father was the same actor who played the loquacious, bull-headed cop in Bong Joon-ho's last movie (Memories of a Murder). It is the same actor, and he's fantastic. So are both the movies, for what it's worth.

Memories of a Murder notable for how it re-imagines--at least to this American--the cop-drama, making it less about psychological horror and investigative brilliance than frustration and entropy. Confronted with the country's first real serial killer, Song Kang-ho's character is an aggressively cocky oaf initially more concerned with appearing to be a clever investigator than actually being one. As the murders continue and he doesn't find answers in his slapdash borrowing from film and television police procedurals, his violence becomes increasingly out of control while the killer's is undertaken with an opposite dispassion. It would be easy to say the movie is about this small Korean town's loss of innocence at the hands of "unspeakable evil," but Song Kang-ho's character makes it clear the murders--and the government's impotence in stopping them--is an inevitability of the country's rapid industrialization and erratic political situation at the time the film was set (mid-1980s). That Song--like the killer, like the government--preys on the weak seems all too natural for him.

Likewise The Host takes what is otherwise a genre movie and instills it with a political awareness, both of S. Korea's own democratization and of America's international motivations. As much as the monster, America is the bad guy here (though S. Korea's government doesn't exactly get a free pass). That said, the politics are really just background to a thoroughly engaging creature feature. Here Song plays an almost man-child whose first interactions with his 13-year-old daughter go from her telling him about parents' day (which his brother attended instead of him), her laughing at his attempts to save dimes to buy her a new cellphone, and then him sweetly giving her a beer. Both roles require an intense physical presence, but where Song's character in Memories is a leaky powder keg, his character here is so soft at times it's as if he is going to collapse, blob-like, into himself.

Much more could be said for the direction of Bong Joon-ho's direction was is beautiful, disturbing, and highly accessible. Without insult I might think of Bong as a kind-of Korean Spielberg, but I can't begin to think of an actor like Song in American cinema. Russell Crowe, maybe, but Song has more of a doughy false bravado where as Russell Crowe probably actually does believe he could take down the Roman Empire single-handedly. And that comparison only really works in Memories. I can't see Russell playing down like Song does in The Host.

Paul Giamatti? Philip Seymour Hoffman? But I can't see either of them mercilessly beating suspects and pulling it off. I'm at a loss. Would love to hear suggestions.

P.S. If you have Netflix you can stream Memories of a Murder. Do it. Now.

Exhibit 1.9

On Commas

Let's say, hypothetically, a story of mine was given an intense edit by an editor at a journal in which it will appear. Let's also say that this hypothetical story is some 27 pages long--approximately 9.7k words or so. So, as part of the intense edit, the editor made comments to the Word file, returned the file, and then I was to actually make the changes and email a corrected file back. Hypothetically. How many commas would you guess were added to those 27 pages?

If you guessed 150-some, you are correct.

Now I can't stress enough how appreciative I was of the editorial attention or how bad I felt for the (hypothetical) editor who had to insert 150 (hypothetical) commas, but it did get me thinking about the comma in prose, specifically if/when choice should trump the publication's style guide. Here are examples of the type of commas I omitted that were added:

  • At home (COMMA) June baked cookies.
  • He opened the door (COMMA) and the wind blew it back against the house.
  • "Pick up some milk (COMMA) so I don't have to."

Now, it's not that I don't know that I comma should be after an introductory prepositional phrase or that there should be a comma before a conjunction with an independent clause behind it, but I really think there are times (apparently at least 150) when they're not necessary in literary fiction. Short prepositional phrases don't seem to even have a natural pause, sometimes the sentence needs to be rewritten so that the independent clause (and the comma) aren't necessary, and sometimes in dialogue commas seem out of character or insert an unnatural pause.

I rewrote some sentence, gladly made the changes on others, and resisted a few where I felt strongly about it. It's funny though, this is the only journal that has ever done anything like this, but I don't think it's because the others weren't doing it. I think they just did it without seeking the author's input at all. Since I never look at a piece once I check to make sure they didn't call me 'Petersen,' I really have no idea if this is the case or not, but I can imagine some poor graduate assistant pouring over my working with hundreds of commas on the table sprinkling them like pepper over my rough manuscript.

I feel intensely bad about this.

When I saw how many changes the hypothetical editor wanted to make, I wanted to email him back and call the whole thing off. If I don't have the grammar to get within at least 100 commas of correct, I probably have no business appearing in any journal. If this were a high school English class and each comma missed was minus a point, I would have gotten a negative 50, making it my worst grade since my 36 on a test in College Algebra. (Oh, and there was even partial credit points given on that algebra test.)

Now I'm on total comma lookout, having added several to this post I might have otherwise ignored. Had I known how much work commas were--and had time to run it by the ARC (Apocryphal Retort Club)--I might have just emailed back: Yeah, well, your mom needs 150-some commas.

That would have been sweet.


Exhibit 1.8

Heather is featured in this week's RealPoetik with an incredible poem with lines like:

  • Up, whorish daffodils!
  • The pink pill is the tear
  • When spring pushes push steam

Why aren't you reading it now?


Exhibit 1.7

So Heather sent me this article which ends with the often pondered scenario of what would happen if a group of infants found themselves stranded on an island in the Galapagos (which is surprisingly specific on the location of the island of abandonment but disturbingly ambiguous on the number of children. Would some parents just not come forward when the Baby Plane crashed?) Would the children create a language? If so, how long would it take and what kind of language would it be?

Of course, nobody answers with Yes, 9 years, French which is, of course, correct.

Far more interesting to me are the other tangents here about what kind of society these plane babies would construct on a well-charted island in the middle of a tourist destination. I imagine them staring longingly at passing nature cruises but unable to express their confusion because another plane baby has the conch and is berating a local waiter in perfect French.

I'm surprised no one pointed out that these plane babies would most likely be assholes. Actually, Noam Chomsky probably did.

The question linguists should be asking--and, by the way, I think it wouldn't be all that hard to get this experiment off the ground. Babies, land, and time are pretty much our most abundant resources--is how complicated the rules governing the conch would be. The correct answer is, of course, very.

Exhibit 1.6

The Cupboard Pamphlet Volume 15

A new volume of The Cupboard Pamphlet is out with work on knickers, love, and cows. If I may say, it's one of the best ones yet. Please read.


Exhibit 1.5

The Epic Poetry of Baseball Announcing

Something tells me Fred White--Royals fill-in radio guy, corpse--either hasn't read or doesn't remember reading the Iliad. I say this because Fred White has the unparalleled ability to sound as if he is calling that day's game between bites of oatmeal, most of which his shaky hand spills onto his flannel pajama pants. They may actually just call him on the phone and have him give his thoughts from a La-Z-Boy at a nursing home, I'm not sure. I think he actually brings his own old-timey microphone with him. He probably has to crank it which is why he can only say five or six words between his phlemy, oatmeal-scented exhalations.

What I'm trying to say here is that Fred White sounds old.

Also, he's probably not familiar with Matthew Arnold or Milman Parry. Hell, I'm not even familiar with those guys and I didn't die in 1880 (Ed note: he is probably not that Fred White but we're not ruling it out). But what Fred White has in common with Homer, Matthew Arnold, and Milman Parry is a fascinating appreciation for the traditions of oral storytelling. He's not the best radio guy--in fact, I'd say he's probably the worst--but he takes my favorite Homerian-styled announcing trope to extremes. This is probably an exaggeration, but I think his call last night for Alex Gordon's game-winning 10th-inning homerun actually went something like this:

  • Homerun by* left-handed* young Gordon*deep left* field over* Ford’s head
  • Left-handed* young Gordon* gone deep*left field*Lew Ford’s*head hung
  • Great win for*young Gordon*Bell and the*team over*Twins’ Boof* Five-Three

Now if you're reading this--and you probably aren't--you're surely thinking that my dactylic hexameter is way off. I imagine you are correct. The point is that Fred White uses these great repetitive phrases during his commentary so much that I keep expecting him to slip in a reference to the long-haired Myrmidons without missing a beat. Alex Gordon is always young Gordon or left-handed Alex. Various pitchers are either crafty or promising depending on whether they are 35 or 25 (if they fall somewhere in between they are invariably "confident").

I imagine he doesn't talk like this in real life, but I wouldn't put it past him. Without even attempting to butcher more dactyls:

  • I'll have three Whoppers please Miss three Whoppers and one Diet Coke Miss

  • Great burgers three Whoppers can't miss with Diet Coke too please hurry Fred White

  • Hungers for three Whoppers and one Diet Coke in a perspiring cup King Size? No, Miss Thang.

It's a lost art, this oral tradition.


Exhibit 1.4

Stock Photography Review

From USBank.com

This compelling, though not particularly bold, entry comes courtesy of the banking industry which is to stock photography what the New Yorker is to line drawings, producing nearly 85% of the world's output. It's as if long ago some destined-to-be retail banking whiz snuck into his father's office, jimmied open the tantalizingly locked desk drawer, discovered a treasure of average looking people smiling back at him, and thought, "This must be sex."

Well, it's not, but that didn't stop whoever this was from plastering these pictures over every brochure, direct mailer, and website the banking industry produces. Which is good because it keeps my Louvre of Bland here running, but bad because with bank branches continuing to open at an alarm rate, we'll only be seeing more of it in the future.

This particular piece deftly manages the hard dichotomy of good stock photography: universality and anonymity. Notice the age of the woman--which can best be described as menopausal--falls between any easy classification, landing somewhere between mother and grandmother on the Child-Daughter-Young Independent Woman-Mother-Grandmother-Ruth Bader Ginsburg scale of female age. Is this woman Mom? Grandma? Me? It's the question your mind asks subconsciously, and the piece works because the answer is, of course, all of them. Ergo universality. The anonymity--that difficult quality that allows us not just to recognize the woman but to become her--is subtle. The blurred background of the piece nicely accomplishes a bit of abstract impressionism, letting us paint our own canvas behind her. Is that blob a sky scraper or a silo, a Wal-Mart or a yoga studio? It's the most interesting choice the artist made simply because most stock photography either plays in loose space (parks, fields, etc.) or tight space (kitchens, board rooms, etc.), if not eliminating the illusion of space all together by disembodying a head and painting color over the background. These Max Headroom like personae seem bizarrely natural on first glance and bizarrely unnatural on second. That line is skirted nicely here. Everything looks fairly standard until an observer notices this woman lives in a Morisot painting.

The other thing to note is the nice use of color, with the blue of the shirt fading into the bank's signature dark blue at the base with both the color of the shirt and the bar stopping at approximately the same place on the canvas. This picture was almost certainly not taken specifically for this client, so to be able to find such an easy match is fortuitous. Clothes ruin more stock photography than they help--hence disembodied heads again--and it isn't often to find the right clothes, with the right background, with the right face.

Speaking of, the woman's look strikes the right note of checking account satisfaction but cannot produce the softness the proposition seems to want. She looks like she knows a secret, an undesirable in the small-print world of banking.

Secrets this woman may know:

  • What time Murphy Brown reruns are on
  • Who farted
  • The ending of the movie Phenomenon (Ed. note: He dies)
  • What you do when alone at night
  • Which margarine really is right for her lifestyle
  • When the muffins are done

Still, she is a confident, successful-woman who should be proud to appear in this effective if not a little middling work.